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Azerbaijan stops Mayor of Paris' humanitarian convoy to Nagorno-Karabakh, denies blockade again

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Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, led a convoy of humanitarian aid for residents of Nagorno-Karabakh <Armenians call the region Artsakh - The Insider> on August 30. Ten trucks carrying food, power generators, and solar panels reached the Lachin Corridor, which connects the region to Armenia, but were prevented from going any further by the Azerbaijani military. “Here at the Lachin Corridor, we testify that no humanitarian aid can enter Artsakh, in total violation of human rights,” Hidalgo reported.

The column was accompanied by about 15 elected officials from French cities and regions, including Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg, and Occitanie. Following the visit, the politicians asked French President Emmanuel Macron to submit a resolution to the UN Security Council demanding that the Lachin Corridor be opened and placed under international protection. During Hidalgo's press conference in the Armenian city of Goris, she condemned the Azerbaijani regime's actions toward the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh as genocide and ethnic cleansing. On August 31, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry reported handing a note of protest to French Ambassador Anne Bouillon, in which Baku defined the attempt to deliver humanitarian cargo to the area of an ongoing humanitarian disaster as a “provocation”.

Against the backdrop of these events, Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan, who has headed the unrecognized republic since 2020, announced his resignation. According to Harutyunyan, this was a forced decision due to the decline in people's confidence in the regional government and him as a leader. Before his resignation, Harutyunyan dismissed Minister of State Gurgen Nersisyan, appointing Samvel Shahramanyan, who had previously served as the Security Council Secretary, in his stead. National Assembly Speaker David Ishkhanyan will act as the President of Nagorno-Karabakh. The next president will be elected by the parliament of the unrecognized republic.

The Azerbaijani authorities, which are continuing to block the Lachin Corridor, claim that goods can be delivered to Nagorno-Karabakh via the road from Aghdam to Stepanakert. On August 29, two trucks allegedly carrying flour were brought from the Azerbaijani side. Ilham Aliyev's aide Hikmet Hajiyev announced the Lachin Corridor will be opened if the road through Aghdam is opened first.

  • The road from Aghdam to Stepanakert, blocked in the vicinity of Askeran
  • The Lachin Corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia

However, Artsakh authorities and local residents refuse to allow Azeris and their trucks into their territory for fear of an attack. The fears are not ungrounded: last month alone, the Azerbaijani military abducted at least four Artsakh residents who were traveling accompanied by Russian peacekeepers or Red Cross personnel. Locals also mistrust food and medicine sent from Baku, fearing it may be spoiled or poisoned.

“Our government agencies have issued relevant instructions. Russian peacekeepers have installed a checkpoint on the Akna (Aghdam)-Stepanakert road, and there is also a checkpoint of the patrol and checkpoint service of our Interior Ministry. The instructions are in place. There is a clear decision to keep this road closed, and not use it,” said David Ishkhanyan, the Chairman of the Nagorno-Karabakh National Assembly.

According to him, Russian peacekeepers are persuading Artsakh to open the road for Azerbaijanis. However, Artsakh mistrusts the peacekeepers too because, according to the trilateral agreement signed in 2020, the Russian peacekeeping contingent was supposed to ensure the free movement of goods along the Lachin Corridor, but it has not been fulfilling these duties for eight months.

Azerbaijani “activists” at the entrance to Artsakh from the direction of Aghdam
Azerbaijani “activists” at the entrance to Artsakh from the direction of Aghdam

Azerbaijan's ultimate goal is to establish full control over Nagorno-Karabakh. Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly stated that Armenians, the region’s indigenous population, should either leave or accept Azerbaijani citizenship and “integrate” into the state. Armenians, however, believe that falling under Baku's rule is tantamount to a death sentence for them, given the long history of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, Armenian pogroms and numerous cases of kidnappings, torture, and killings of Armenian residents by the Azerbaijani military during the 2020 Karabakh War.

Meanwhile, Nagorno-Karabakh's flour reserves are coming to an end. According to journalist Marut Vanyan, who lives in Stepanakert, residents are sold no more than one loaf of bread a day per family, regardless of how many people are in the family. Even so, people stand in lines to buy bread all night long.

In early August, former International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo published a report calling the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh “an ongoing genocide against 120,000 Armenians”, citing Article II of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide (“Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”).

“There are no crematories, and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks,” Ocampo wrote.

On August 15, Artsakh authorities reported the first officially recorded case of death from malnutrition. On the following day, the UN Security Council convened at Armenia’s initiative to discuss the humanitarian disaster in Nagorno-Karabakh. Yashar Aliyev, Azerbaijan's representative to the UN, denied either blockade or famine in the region. As evidence, Aliyev showed printouts with photos from Instagram, which, according to him, depict feasts currently being held in Artsakh. Later, Armenian bloggers found out that, among other things, the Azerbaijani diplomat showed a still from a wedding video, which featured a tiered cake made of cardboard.

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